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Think You Want a Divorce? Five Signs You're Not Really Ready


You've probably heard the depressing statistics that 50% of marriages fail, but the truth is that divorce rates are falling, particularly among Millennials. Four decades of skyrocketing divorce rates have taught Americans that breaking free of a troubled marriage may not be all it's cracked up to be. Indeed, if you have children, you'll likely be stuck dealing with the same issues you once faced while married – but without the security that comes with a lifetime commitment. It's easy to convince yourself that divorce is the escape hatch to a better life, but more than half of divorced couples regret their decision. Here are five surefire signs that you're not yet ready to divorce. 

You Want to Teach Your Spouse a Lesson

If you think filing for divorce will be a wake-up call that encourages your spouse to finally do right by you, think again. Filing for divorce will likely activate your spouse's defenses, and may even permanently destroy your marriage. Divorce is not a bargaining chip, and using it as such is almost guaranteed to backfire.

 You're Jealous

If you can't stand the thought of your ex being with another person, ask yourself whether you're really ready to get divorced. Divorce is not a way to resolve disputes; it's a permanent separation that requires you to fully let go of your spouse. If you're not prepared to do that, then you still love your spouse. And that means there's still hope for your marriage.

 You Hope You'll Stay Friends

Sure, the prospect of completely losing touch with someone who's played such a valuable role in your life can feel scary. Divorce, though, means giving up control. If you're willing to do anything to stay in touch with your spouse, then put that energy toward saving your marriage instead. Once you're divorced, there are no guarantees that you'll stay in touch.

 You're Planning a Big Fight

If you're planning to milk your spouse for every penny he or she has, ruin your spouse's relationship with your kids, or otherwise engage in a massive legal brawl, consider your motivations. Fighting from a place of vengeance not only wreaks havoc on your marriage; it will also exponentially increase your stress levels. If you want to wage war on your spouse, this signals that your connection and your emotions are still strong. Put that energy into saving your marriage and you'll be happier a year from now than you will be if you accrue hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal bills trying to destroy your ex's life.

You Haven't worked On Your Marriage

If you're sick of being married, thought you'd have fewer conflicts, or have some other amorphous reason for divorcing, it's time to take a long, hard look at your motivations. Marriage takes work, to be sure, but that work pays off in the form of greater happiness and a lifelong connection. If you haven't spent some time in therapy, explored your own behavior, or dedicated yourself to better communication, you haven't given your marriage a chance to succeed. 

The Benefits of Marriage Counseling: What to Expect from Relationship Counseling

It's easy to conceive of marriage counseling as something only couples on the verge of divorce do. And if you are one of those couples on the verge of divorce, you might be even more opposed to marriage counseling, believing that it can't possibly fix your problems. But marriage counseling is incredibly effective. In fact, one recent study by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists found that 98% of participants were pleased with the results of marriage counseling. The right counselor can pull your marriage back from the brink, helping you recover the love you might think you've lost forever.


How Marriage Counseling Helps

Think back to the day you got married. Either the problems you have now didn't exist then, or seemed trivial. Either way, this suggests that these problems can be solved – or that, if the problems aren't solvable, they can at least be managed. For example, spouses with different spending styles can set rules and limits or create separate bank accounts. So how exactly dos counseling help you get back on track? That depends on what you're facing, but generally, a good therapist will:

  • Help you clearly define the problems that you're facing.
  • Work to help each of you see the role you're playing in those problems.
  • Help you discern the difference between problems that can be solved (such as a spouse's gambling addiction) and problems that must be managed instead (such as a child with a developmental disability).
  • Work to help you improve communication skills.
  • Give you the tools you need to improve one another's well-being and self-esteem.
  • Give you “assignments” designed to help you improve your marriage.

What Happens in Marriage Counseling?

The structure and feel of marriage counseling is primarily dependent on the counselor you choose. The single biggest predictor of success, though, is a strong and trusting relationship, so be sure you feel comfortable with your therapist – even if he or she pushes you a bit. In general, you can expect that most of your sessions will be joint sessions, though you may have a few individual sessions. You'll also get plenty of homework and suggestions for what to do outside the walls of therapy; fail to follow these suggestions, and you'll miss out on some of the most significant therapy benefits.

Choosing a Counselor

As with everything in life, there are good, bad, and great therapists. To get the most out of therapy, be sure to:

  • Check the status of your therapist's license; unlicensed therapists should not be practicing
  • Ask how long therapy will take and how you'll know you're succeeding.
  • Ask about your therapist's philosophy regarding therapy; for instance, if you're an atheist and your therapist intends to incorporate Christian themes, it may not be the best fit for you and your spouse.

Explore whether going to therapy on your own is an option; many couples report that, even when one spouse is unwilling to attend therapy, marriage counseling with just one partner can.